Homefront Review


Game: Homefront
Publisher/Developer: THQ/ KAOS Studios
Consoles: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Genre: FPS
Release: 15th March US, 18th March EU, 16th March AU
Price: $59.99 US, Buy it here$99.99 AU, Buy it here

THQ drove our hopes up sky high for their newest game, an FPS that was meant to redefine the boundaries of emotional story lines, online multi-player and gripping gameplay moments.  With a breaking heart, I am sad to write that Homefront does not accomplish these lofty goals.  It does provide some slight relief from the other shooters on the market today, but overall, these slight moments of inspiration are overshadowed by the larger clouds of rushed development.

In a possible future where gas rises to $20.00 a gallon and North Korea reunites with South Korea, the story of Homefront begins.   The year is 2027, and virtually the entire world has been overcome by the Greater Korean Republic.  The United States of America has suffered horrific setbacks, one after the other, and therefore have been brought to their knees.  Only a few shreds of military are left to defend against this new enemy.  With the goal of taking back what was once their own, a resistance movement has also formed.

That may seem like quite an interesting world to explore.  However, it suffers due to presentation, bland characters and unoriginal moments.

The game starts out in Colorado.  I was able to identify with most of the places mentioned during dialogue.  Tinges of fear even rippled through me as they discussed the towns destroyed and the people missing.  Soon enough though, I was running around in “Colorado.”  Strangely enough, I did not recognize much.  In fact, I only saw one mountain range that looked familiar.  All the neighborhoods looked like junkyards with some remnants of houses left in.  Admittedly, these towns have been destroyed, but there is no excuse for making EVERY environment have bland piles of wood and a stainless steel fridge laying around.  Also, nearly every yard had a fence that had conveniently been destroyed in such a way so as to provide a nice ramp to cross over. I guess bombing raids do strange things to fences.

One other awful presentation issue cropped up during cut scenes.   After about 45 seconds, a line of text that said “Press A to skip” popped up with no way to get it to go away.  Although not very large, this was highly noticeable.  It probably does not seem like a big deal, but it was distracting.  Plus, there is just absolutely no reason why this issue was not resolved during development.  I’m all for skippable cut scenes, but this implementation of the feature is not the right way to do it.

Even though the plot line may seem like a stretch, it still could be an interesting story if I could have  identified with the characters & had an emotional investment tied to them.  Unfortunately, whereas the story is over the top, the characters are at the opposite end of the spectrum.   Every single person I met in the game was so similar to one another that I thought maybe they were clones.  I don’t even remember any of their names.  It is shame that none of the protagonists were fleshed out; virtually no background stories or unique identifying features were implemented to make me feel tied to a particular person. Other than a gut wrenching moment involving a mass grave, I never felt involved in the experience.    Therefore, when terrifically bad events in the game happened, like the death of person, I found it difficult to feel anything except annoyance.  Annoyance that I did not know anything about this man/woman’s life and that I was being cheated out of this information.  Most other huge “Hollywood moments” that happened in the game were just derivatives of things we have already seen before in other franchises (blowing up a gas station, anyone?)

Between tepid personnel and boring environments, it was tough to slog through the campaign.  This game had potential, but it was quickly decimated when the game failed to deliver a believable story that could be related to.  The story mode can deliver a small amount of entertainment, but only  after other options are exhausted.

Making matters worse is that the gameplay is even worse than the story.  Missions revolve around you following a person.  And then following some more, while also getting to take out some Korean baddies.  Rarely do the objectives change. Occasionally, you can control a Humvee with a positronic brain.  That is pretty fun, but after a few times, it does get old.  Other than killing humans, there are also robotic arms that have machine guns on them.  They look like a crane, and they have enemy sensing cameras on them.  Killing one the first time was pretty fun.  But by the 5th time, I was sick of sneaking up behind them and chucking grenades.  Really, there is hardly any variety throughout the entire game.

But, if you do forget your objectives, your AI companions –who also have terrible aim– will remind you every 5 seconds.  Seriously.  Their whiny voices came through my headphones saying the same thing over and over again.  But these AI are nothing compared to the enemy AI.  The enemy AI would often run straight up to me, thus enabling me to use my ever so sharp knife.  The even more idiotic enemies would sometimes just stand behind cover looking forlorn as a bullet pierced their skull.  If you happened to catch a group of enemies taking a tea and crumpet break behind some crates, a nice grenade would send them flying, arms flailing and vocal chords screaming.  So, it was entertaining, I guess, in an odd way though that didn’t fit the style of the game.

Possibly the one redeeming part about Homefront is its multi-player.  Indeed, KAOS seems to have spent much of their time on this portion of the game, and it is no wonder, considering that the competition has enjoyed such great success in this space.

Multiplayer has points for kills and the like.  But, you can spend these points in real time on flak jackets or drones.  The more points you have, the more people are likely to gun for you as well, and this adds an interesting layer of strategy to the gameplay.  Another area of the multiplayer that I enjoyed was the ability fly around in a remote controlled heli-drone and mark targets for my team mates.  A neat remote controlled tank is available for you to use and/or upgrade.

There are only a few different online modes, but they are all really fun.  It is not cool that they didn’t introduce any new game modes, but they rely on standbys like deathmatch and capture points.  The online portion of the game seemed solidly balanced, although I am concerned that there are not enough unlockables for hardcore online players. A one time redemption code for online play is also required; that is a real bummer and there is really no reason to put this in the game, used game sales be damned.  If you do buy the game used, you must pay $10 to play online past Rank 5.

Overall, if your looking for a slightly different multi-player game, then you should probably check this game out.  It is just enough slightly different and fresh that it may be worth your while.

In conclusion, KAOS Studios clearly had to put this game on the market well before it was ready.  The entire story basically revolves around getting to some fuel trucks.  Oh, and there are some deaths and atrocities that happen along the way.  No respect is shown to what could be some great ideas. For example, it is obvious that at some point, you are meant to talk to some people in the world and find out their story.  An achievement is even based around this very idea.  However, when you talk to these people, they have one thing to say, and it is is usually not very informative.  If this had been expanded upon, I think it would have a very interesting addition in the game and would’ve helped me identify with the Resistance.  But, like everything else in the game, it was half baked.  If KAOS can put some better backstory into their characters and improve the level design, as well fixing some other issues like tasteless backgrounds, this franchise could have a great sequel.  As it stands though, this game currently brings very little to the table in the way of new content, and for that there is no reason to consider it as a standout in the video game market.  It is an average game with a few good qualities that need to expounded on.  However, if the story can be slightly fun if you cast aside any concerns about depth of character.  Likewise, the multi-player can be enjoyable for extended periods of time.  Blowing up fools with drones never gets old.


Ben Webb on the PC version of Homefront:

-PC looks better
-Mouse feels more responsive than controller, though this is likely because I’m more tuned to a mouse
-Load times were about the same, though mine was on steam so it was running off my HDD. I’m not sure if running off a disc will add time. Also, the version I was playing on was probably installed on the Xbox HDD as well.
-Both have VOIP chat in multiplayer.
-There aren’t really a lot of differences; it more or less comes down to personal preference. Though, on the PC the game did look a bit dated, it felt like it was a DX9 game.
-The controls are fully remappable on the PC. I didn’t check if they were on console though. But the default scheme feels pretty natural on both PC and Xbox.
-Game is infested with snipers on both versions. Developers, PLEASE REMOVE THEM! Fun should always come before realism. Always.
-Most maps are pretty balanced.
-The swooping before spawn is horrible on both versions.

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